Why the West Needs Israel
It is imperative for the West to learn an important lesson: It is better to fight your enemy on their territory rather than to wait for them to come to you.
Future of Jewish is the ultimate newsletter by and for people passionate about Judaism and Israel. Subscribe to better understand and become smarter about the Jewish world.
Please consider supporting our mission to help everyone better understand and become smarter about the Jewish world. A gift of any amount helps keep our platform free and zero-advertising for all.
On May 6th, 2021, Palestinians in East Jerusalem began protesting an anticipated decision of the Supreme Court of Israel related to a possible eviction of six Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Within a few days, Arab Israelis were rioting throughout Israel, prompting police riot control, and it felt like a civil war was on the horizon. I remember that, in Tel Aviv, as I was on my way home from playing basketball on a random weekday evening, there was a rumor that Arab Israelis from Jaffa were planning to come to my neighborhood of Florentine to beat up Jews, loot stores, and cause havoc.
Why, then, have Arab Israelis largely remained silent and orderly in the face of the Palestinian terror attacks on October 7th? It is not like Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Houthis, and the Islamic Republic of Iran have not all tried to incite Arab Israelis to rise up against the Jews in Israel.
The reason the vast majority of Arab Israelis have not heeded the call is simple: On October 7th, Israel announced a zero-tolerance policy for domestic disobedience.
Meanwhile, across Western cities, “pro-Palestinian” demonstrators regularly disrupt traffic, while others float balloons that might crash planes, vandalize bookstores and public libraries, fire guns at schools, and assault people who video record their public antisemitic activities.
In the UK, police say they are scared to enforce the laws. Across North America, “free speech” is being used to excuse micro-aggressions, bullying, and damage to private property. But in Israel, which is sandwiched between a wannabe Islamic caliphate in Gaza, a civil war in Syria, and a failing state in Lebanon, domestic obedience is the least of our worries.
Perhaps the West could learn a thing or two from a country that inhabits just a tiny sliver of land in one of the most hostile and volatile places in the world — especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine punctured many assumptions about a false sense of security.
Hopefully, it is no longer an illusion that dictators and oppressive regimes will refrain from leveraging their powers to advance their aims, particularly against what they perceive as weak, incompetent, and disorganized Western democracies.
In the past decades throughout the Middle East (in Gaza, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen) Islamist terrorists have seized control and created “terror states” that operate and function in complete diametrically opposed ways to normal sovereign states that all of us enjoy.
These “terror states” are not just a terrorist organization operating within the territory of another country. They control every social, political, and military aspect of the territory they occupy, while exploiting resources and civilian populations for their ideological efforts to destroy the maturing Middle East and create a political-religious Islamic empire void of Western ideals, in service of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad.
In the midst of this brutal, volatile, and ideologically driven Middle East, tiny Israel has managed to build a thriving country which ranks among the top 10 in several distinguished categories, from the military and economy, to society and education — in one of the only places in the region that does not have any oil.
Sure, Israel has received assistance from its allies along the way. France essentially gifted the Jewish state a nuclear program in the 1950s, and the U.S. helped Israel turn around the 1973 Yom Kippur War to emerge victorious.
But this is exactly the point: Like-minded allies support each other in times of need. And whether it is in Europe or the Middle East, we should lay to rest the idea that any one Western country, such as America, can stand alone.
Israel might not have the political clout of countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany; the natural resources of Saudi Arabia and Qatar; or the isolation of Australia. Yet the Jewish state offers the West something it desperately needs: a blueprint for fighting radical Islam.
After 9/11, the West predominantly relied on allies like Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, which only made the “War on Terror” more bloody and more costly.1
“Their own officials funded and even harbored the very terror networks we were fighting. These countries’ brutal and corrupt governments were so morally bankrupt that they became recruiting posters for future Islamic extremists,” according to Garrett Graff, the author of three books about 9/11.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, radical Islam has become an ideological rival of the democratic West. And if we are going to be honest about radical Islam’s existential dangers, we must also be honest about the U.S. government being a key actor in the 1953 coup that ousted Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, which ultimately led to the the 1979 Iranian Revolution and thus the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Radical Islam is different than radical Christianity, radical Judaism, radical Hinduism, and radical Buddhism in that it totally rejects Western values wherever they exist in the world. It might not be nice to hear, but radical Islam wants to destroy Western civilization.
Strategically, as it did on September 11th, or during terror attacks inspired, encouraged, and sometimes organized in European cities, radical Islam always seeks to attack people, as well as nations, on their own soil and in their own homes. It’s an attempt to undermine a sense of safety and security and instill fear. Hamas’ charter, for example, states that no one will enjoy peace and security unless under the control of Islam.
There is only one way to deal with terror states. Total war that ends with the destruction of the regime and its military capabilities — like the war that the West led against ISIS. Of course, you cannot eliminate an ideology; there are, after all, still Nazis in the world. But the danger they pose today is a fraction of a fraction of the dangers that Nazis posed during the era of Nazi Germany.
Radical ideologies are far more dangerous when they control or form a state, or a territorial caliphate. This is why the West, along with its allies in the Middle East, decided it could not allow the Islamic State to persist. The same should go for Hamas.
The war being waged by radical Islam against the West and its values is only at its start, and Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Hamas are the beginning chapters in a war against the West and its values. Truth be told, radical Islam already has a grip on many European cities.
It is imperative for the West to learn an important lesson that Israel knew in the past and unfortunately forgot recently: It is better to fight your enemy on their territory rather than to wait for them to come to you.
The West would be wise to learn from the unique (and therefore challenging) warfare in Gaza, if it wants to prepare itself for the inevitable fight against Iran and its proxies. This is practically a new form of warfare: an urban setting, extensive use of human shields, and massive tunnel infrastructure.
While the West historically has struggled against Arab extremists in war, Israel deeply understands and fares well against this enemy, as proven by its civilian-to-combatant death during the current Israel-Hamas war.
Even if you believe Hamas’ claim that around 25,000 people have been killed in Gaza, the combatant-to-civilian death ratio in Gaza is about 1-to-1.5 and less than 1-to-2. In other words, for every combatant killed, less than two civilians are killed. For reference, civilians usually make up around 90 percent of casualties in war, according to the United Nations. That’s a 1-to-9 ratio, one combatant for every nine civilians.
And this is not a fluke. In the very last operation carried out by the IDF prior to October 7th (in the West Bank city of Jenin), 0.6 civilians were killed for every one combatant killed. That’s right, the IDF managed to kill more combatants than civilians, which is extremely rare.
It is also vital to realize that the West has enemies than to be in denial that they exist. In Israel, no one makes any reservations about the threats that Iran’s octopus pose to the Jewish state, both explicitly and implicitly.
But in the West, there is an emerging mindset that our self-stated enemies are not our enemies. They are just “different” than us, and we ought to embrace cultural relativism, globalization, decolonization, and multiculturalism — even if our enemies openly despise these ideals.
At Kings College in London, for instance, one course teaches that “terrorism is not the problem, rather the systems they oppose are terrorist” and “condemning terrorism is to endorse the power of the strong over the weak” — as if the West is to blame for terrorism.2
Patience and tolerance towards a radical ideology that does not recognize the legitimacy of others’ ways of life is the greatest enemy of peace and coexistence. If the Western ways of life are cherished, then there must be a willingness to stand up, fight against, and eventually defeat its foes, no holds barred.
The mere threat of massive retaliation, not backed by actual force, has not deterred Putin, Hamas, or the Houthis, and it will not deter Iran and China. For autocrats and ideologues, mutually assured deterrence is not deterrence, but an incentive to keep upping the ante.
This is why Israel is pounding the Gaza Strip, and it is why Israel’s deterrence strategy has always relied on its enemies knowing that the Jewish state will unapologetically inflict more damage than it takes, even if it means massive destruction.
Israel understands that it is not its responsibility to look after the residents of another territory or country, especially at the expense of its own residents, nor should it be. Make no mistake: Israel values human life, but when your enemies try to manipulate this virtue against you, it is no longer a virtue, but a weakness.
The West, like Israel, ought to be unshakable in this conviction: If you do not want destruction brought upon you and your people, do not invite it.
“After 9/11, the U.S. Got Almost Everything Wrong.” The Atlantic.
“Scandalous Indoctrination: Inside a Kings College Counter-Terrorism Course for UK Civil Servants.” Fathom.